Opening Statement Of Congressman Stephen F. Lynch Committee On Government Reform Hearing "Digging Up The Facts: Inspecting The Big Dig And The Performance Of Federal And State Government In Providing Oversight Of Federal Funds”

Apr 22, 2005

Thank you Chairman Davis, I'd like to begin by thanking you and our ranking member Henry Waxman for your willingness to convene this hearing and to come here to <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />Boston.

This is the Committee on Government Reform, and, as the name suggests, it is the continuing problems that we have encountered on the Central Artery/Tunnel Project that bring us here today. Very simply, we must ask the tough questions, and use the powers that are afforded to this Committee and to the Congress to determine where the shared responsibilities may lie in completing and maintaining this project in a manner that meets the high standards that taxpayers and toll payers may reasonably expect. In a national regulatory context, we also seek to ensure that the systemic problems that resulted in cost overruns are not allowed to happen again.

There is frequent criticism of the partisan bickering that sometimes hampers the work of Congress, and in fairness, some of that is deserved. However, I must say that my experience on this Committee under the leadership of Chairman Tom Davis, the gentleman from Virginia, has been a shining exception to that rule.

In my brief tenure on the Committee, we've conducted investigations of the Boston Office of the FBI's involvement with organized crime, and we continue to investigate the Iraqi Oil for Food Scandal, contract irregularities in the Middle East involving Halliburton, and most recently, steroid abuse in Major League Baseball and professional sports. And through it all, I have seen that Chairman Davis has personally gone to great lengths to maintain a level of fairness and to encourage the work of all Members, regardless of their political affiliation. So again, my thanks.

Turning to the difficulties on the Central Artery Project, as someone who literally grew up in the construction industry, I've taken a natural interest in this project.

Let me state at the outset, that I don't for a moment discount the colossal scale of this undertaking, the largest and most complex construction project in the history of the United States.

Also, I fully and personally appreciate the pride and skill of the men and women of the Building Trades who've built it. I have enormous pride in them; no one is questioning their work.

And I am mindful, most of all, of the memories of the workers who gave their lives on this project.

Men like John Hegarty of the Savin Hill section of Dorchester (a proud member of Pile Drivers Local 56) who left a wife and young children.

Men like Fook Choi Kan...a Union carpenter from Springfield and Lonnie Avant from Roxbury.

Men like my young friend Frank Shea, Jr. of South Boston, an accomplished boxer and a Golden Gloves champion who lived by the simple truth that there was honor in hard work.

They were reflections of what was and is best about America.

There were common threads that ran through each of their lives ..they like their parents, Irish, Asian, African American, by their labor they found dignity in their work.

That has been an enduring truth in this country…it is also directly related to Americans’ sense of shared sacrifice, our willingness as citizens, to support projects like this that probably benefit future generations more so than it benefits ourselves today.

Not simply to reduce the length of a traffic jam or cut our morning commute time, but because we hope that our work can become our legacy, to improve the lives of future generations.

As noble as that may sound, it takes more than good intentions to build that legacy.

The best example of how quickly good intentions can succumb to failure is the story of greed following national need during World War II. The people of this nation were bound to a unified cause by the attack on Pearl Harbor, and they rallied to superhuman acts of bravery. Yet, as the country grappled with the logistics of the war effort, terrible examples of waste, mismanagement and abuse in our defense contracting threatened that effort. Until Senator Harry Truman and the members of the Truman Commission investigated the causes of those deficiencies and got the war effort back on track.

The risk then was not just in wasted tax dollars, but in lost lives, shoddy materials and missed deadlines in delivery. Senator Truman got in his car and went around the country, visiting installations and talking with the people working for defense contractors. He knew that the key to reform would be found where the work was happening.

And now we are here today, in the spirit of that earlier effort, and it is my hope with at least a small fraction of the clarity and the sense of mission Harry Truman brought to his work.

Why is this as important as that earlier investigation? Our transportation system is the key to our economic stability. We have just approved in the House a brand new $285 billion dollar transportation bill. This nation will continue to undertake huge public works projects. But whether large or small, the taxpayer deserves value for each dollar spent.

This project was and is a courageous endeavor of breathtaking ambition. An effort that was equal to the people who built it. What we're trying to do here is preserve the legacy of this monumental effort and bring it back into respectability. And that can only happen when all parties are held accountable, sharing that responsibility.

I have followed the chronology of this project from its inception to today. I must say that through all its twists and turns and conflicts and mediations, I have found no example where the interests of the taxpayers and of ordinary citizens have prevailed.

Well, we're hoping that this hearing can change that. If we reexamine how we got to this place and take note of the lessons learned from our experience, if we work thoughtfully and in good faith to find a way to ensure that the public is a partner in this effort, we can restore dignity to this project and we can protect the people’s interests from this day forward.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I yield back.